Sharon Van Etten

Are We There

Jagjaguwar

May 23, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


On Sharon Van Etten's latest, we find the 33-year old Brooklynite grappling even further with the complexities and rewards of love. It's a skill predicated on an articulate presentation of the emotionally wroughtone that's been gradually developed across three LPs and a career spanning upwards of a decade.

While it's very easy for confessional songwriting to descend into cloying indulgence or melancholic non-sequiturs, Are We There revels comfortably and unproblematically in a relatable pathos. "You love me but you'll change," she sings on "I Love You But I'm Lost," and a sense of the jaded, broken, and self-destructive is woven throughout the album's 11 tracks. Van Etten doesn't shy from injecting humor in the blackness either"I washed your dishes then I shit in your bathroom," she offers on "Every Time The Sun Comes Up," culling incisive snapshots from domestic life to add weight to her lyrical sketching.

Taking production duties on the record, which she cut with Stewart Lerman (Sufjan Stevens, Antony and the Johnsons), Van Etten amplifies the ornate harmonics and chugging guitar flourishes as the lyrical introspection increases. If at times it moves too quickly between a number of stylistic checkpointsfrom the pristine slickness of "Our Love" to a torn shanty grunge on "Your Love Is Killing Me" or the chiming dream-pop of "Break Me"it's never infuriating, only mildly jarring. Perhaps that's the intention, a choice appropriate to the record's themes, which stretch as taut as necessary to hammer home the message.

It's a fraught listen, though, that's for sure, and Van Etten's to be applauded on her boldness and vision, which nudges closer and closer to something truly remarkable and game-changing. If this isn't it, it's damn close. (www.sharonvanetten.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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